HANNA PETERSEN PHOTO Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders (center) answers questions during the Kwakiutl Band Council’s fish farm dialogue on Jan 25.

Kwakiutl First Nation host fish farm dialogue

“What you are seeing is the assertion of informed consent.”

Kwakiutl First Nation hosted their first panel discussion in a series of fish farm dialogues with scientists, industry, and other experts.

The Kwakiutl Band Council issued a press release explaining their decision to start the series of panel discussions.

“In the year 2000 the Kwakiutl First Nation and Marine Harvest entered an agreement for operating within Kwakiutl Treaty and Traditional Territory; since the signing Kwakiutl has and will uphold and honour the terms of the agreement,” reads the release, which is dated Jan. 25.

“Our Nation along with the guidance of Chief and Council, need to know more. During the remainder of our agreement we will be working together with Marine Harvest and Kwakiutl First Nation members to address the concerns of our people by looking at each issue and creating space to answer all enquiries; and by providing information to our membership for informed consent,” states the release.

The first panel discussion took place at the U’Gwamalis Hall in Fort Rupert on Jan. 25.

“I really hope this is informative to help us understand the impacts and how we want to proceed over the coming years moving from meeting minimal standards to best practices,” said Ross Hunt, who MC’d the meeting.

Kwakiutl Nation members listened to presentations from three speakers: Chief Bob Chamberlin who is the Vice President of the Union of BC Indian Chief, Dr. Brian Riddell from the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and Dr. Kristi Miller who is the head of the molecular genetics laboratory at DFO’s Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo.

“I was very pleased to be able to come and attend and share some thoughts on wild salmon and salmon in general,” said Chamberlin, who spoke about his involvement in the First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance and the development of a new organization called the National Indigenous Fisheries Institute (NIFI).

“The services NIFI wants to provide to all First Nations in B.C. and Canada is a place where you can get technical issues examined and that can be given to a Nation that needs help,” explained Chamberlin.

Dr. Riddell, who is an internationally recognized fishery scientist, spoke about his work with the Pacific Salmon Foundation which he joined in 2009, after a 30-year career with DFO. “One thing we don’t really think about is dialogues with different groups and so one of the things we tell people is that the Salmon Foundation’s goal is to be a voice for salmon – obviously they can’t speak for themselves,” said Riddell, adding, “It is critical to have these voices to depend on to get the proper information.”

Dr. Miller-Saunders, who is well known for her research looking at heart and skeletal muscle inflammation in farmed Atlantic salmon in B.C, was the third presenter to speak. “I never knew I was going to enter into the mindfield that I did when I started asking questions,” said Miller-Saunders, speaking of the beginning of her career as a research scientist studying salmon.

After the presentations, the floor was opened for questions from the audience, many of whom remarked on the density of the information presented.

“I agree that this is painfully complicated, and I agree that in that complicated set of details is where our needs don’t get met,” said Chamberlin.

In their news release, the Kwakiutl Chief and Council emphasized the purpose of these discussions is to ensure that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is used as the framework of negotiating rights, titles, interests, and treaties.

“What is happening is opening our eyes to the need for increased awareness and education of our membership,” wrote the Chief and Council.

They also added that, “What you are seeing is the assertion of informed consent with indigenous inherent rights.”

A second fish farm dialogue involving representatives from the salmon farming industry is set to be scheduled sometime in the near future.

Keep reading the North Island Gazette for more on this issue as it breaks.

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